Eleven satellites made by Geespace, a subsidiary of Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, lifted off aboard a Long March CZ-2C rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan province on Saturday at 7.37am local time, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
For Geespace, it’s the long-awaited second such launch after a batch of nine satellites it sent to orbit in mid-2022. Geespace wants to deploy a network of satellites some 600 kilometers above the Earth that can one day link to driverless cars and support other features in Geely vehicles.
The company also hopes they will be able to provide links for consumer electronics. As competition in China’s auto market heats up and space infrastructure improves, satellite communications are becoming another important selling point to consumers. “Right now, I might have satellite function and you don’t,” Geespace chief executive officer Tony Wang said in an interview with Bloomberg News before the launch. “But in the future, everyone will be equipped with the feature, and also every car.”
Wang referred to two smartphones in Huawei’s Mate series, which support satellite-enabled dialing and also connect to China’s Beidou satellite navigation system. Geespace’s satellite communication is now available in several of Geely group’s EVs, including the Zeekr 001 FR and 007, and the Galaxy E8. China has plans for a “rapid establishment” of a “massive” constellation in low-Earth orbit, the Global Times reported in late December.